HAS THE SPRINGBOK – ALL BLACK RIVALRY BEEN IGNITED?

THE clamour for tickets ahead of yesterdays sold-out Rugby Championship match between the All Blacks and the Springboks in Wellington has raised the question as to whether the age old rivalry between the teams has been ignited. (match was a draw 16 all )

Unquestionably it has thanks to the recent resurgence of the Springboks under Rassie Erasmus, but the rivalry born in 1921, when the two countries first met in Dunedin, is mostly rooted in the 75 years of the pre-1996 amateur era, and since then it has been seriously tested in a modern era that has seen New Zealand dominate world rugby.
But since 2016 that outright Kiwi dominance has waned a wee bit, as they would say in New Zealand parlance, as evidenced by their loss and a draw to the British and Irish Lions, two losses to Ireland, and one defeat apiece to Australia and South Africa.

And it is the closeness of the last three Test matches between the Boks and the All Blacks (going into this morning’s game) that have had South African hearts aflutter and New Zealanders welcoming back a genuine challenge to their dominance.

Last year, the teams perfectly cancelled each other out with a home and away aggregate score of 66-66 following the 34-32 Bok win in Wellington and the 32-20 All Blacks victory in Pretoria; while the previous encounter between the sides had seen the visiting Kiwis squeak home 25-24 in Cape Town.

In other words, there was one point separating the teams over their last three encounters before today’s match.

And the closeness of those three matches has been celebrated by rugby purists in both countries who have treasured the rivalry between the countries, but had wept at the alarming discrepancy between the sides in their previous three encounters that had seen the All Blacks ruthlessly win 41-13, 57-15 and 57-0.

But let’s digress from the Boks’ erratic (to put it euphemistically) performances against New Zealand in the professional era and examine just why these two countries have this exclusive and mutually sentimental need to beat each other more than the other nations.

Over three quarters of a century of amateur rugby, during which the two countries out rightly dominated world rugby, the Springboks had a superior record to the All Blacks.
In short, up until the first post-isolation Test between South Africa and New Zealand in 1992, the Springboks had won 20 Tests against the All Blacks, the latter had won 15, and two matches had been drawn.

The Boks had won a series in New Zealand (1937) but the All Blacks had never won a series on South African soil. As the rivalry progressed into the post World War Two era, the Boks defeated the All Blacks eight times in a row, and nine times out of 10, including the famous “All Blacked out” series of 1949 in South Africa in which the Kiwis had no answer in three Tests.
These days, can you imagine the Springboks winning nine out of 10 consecutive Tests against the All Blacks …?

Progressing into the post World War Two era, the Kiwis won a home series 2-1 in 1956; the Boks reciprocated with a 2-1 win at home in 1960; the All Blacks then won 3-1 in New Zealand in 1965 only to be overturned 3-1 in South Africa in 1970.

South Africa again won 3-1 in South Africa in 1976 only to lose 2-1 in New Zealand in 1981 in an incredibly dramatic tour that divided the country on the issue of “sports versus politics”. Whatever your stance, that tour strikingly entrenched the colourful relationship between the two rugby-mad countries.

In 1986, an unofficial All Blacks Cavaliers side (missing two conscientious objectors in John Kirwan and David Kirk), lost a series in South Africa that again had New Zealanders on the one hand demonising apartheid but with another hand tuning the TV remote into the rugby.

The rivalry thankfully enjoyed a bright new dawn in the post-apartheid Test of 1992 in which the Kiwis squeaked home at a reverberating Ellis Park, with the late James Small spilling a pass at the end of the game which should have seen him win the match for the Boks.

The Boks, and Small, then got it wonderfully right in the World Cup final at the same venue in 1995 after having lost a series in New Zealand in 1994.

And that brings us to quite possibly the most emotional celebrations the All Blacks have ever enjoyed, certainly in what I have seen in 25 year of covering international rugby. The scene was Loftus Versfeld in 1996 and the New Zealanders had snuck home against the Boks to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in a series they would win 2-1.

In the press box that day, I saw usually stony-faced Kiwi scribes weep with emotion, as did Sean Fitzpatrick and his men. The Loftus pitch was littered with All Blacks lying prone on their backs, staring to the heavens with delight.

That is what it meant to New Zealand to at last win a series in South Africa.

And, sadly for South Africa, that home series defeat marked a watershed in the great rivalry. From then on it has been mostly one-sided, with the New Zealand landslide held up only by the occasional Springbok obstacle.

In the 50 matches since the start of the professional era, New Zealand have won 36 Tests to South Africa’s 14, although in that time the Boks have won two World Cups to the two of the New Zealanders (they have a third from the 1989 amateur era).

Overall the New Zealanders have won 79 percent of the Tests they have played and the Springbok 65 percent. No other country has come close.

The problem for the age old rivalry is that in the professional era, the Boks have at best posted threats of a revival, with the occasional bang inevitably followed by a despairing whimper.

And the reason for this has been the abjectly poor administration by the South African Rugby Union. There has been a miserable failure to ensure there is continuity in the coaching structures of the Springboks, and consequently the players, which has meant that after every four (post World Cup) years a new coach has come in and started from scratch.

This contrasts starkly with a New Zealand model that has seen continuity in management of the team just about forever. Just one example of this is the fact that current All Blacks coach Steve Hansen began his apprenticeship for the top job under Graham Henry in 2004, taking over as head coach in 2012, and when he bows out after the World Cup later this year, his probable successor, Ian Foster, will have been an assistant for the last eight years.

This relentless continuity breeds seamless and sustained success, and it is why the All Blacks have been dominating a Springbok set-up that has a wholesale clearout after every World Cup, with the incoming coach largely starting from scratch.

Consider the following. After the 1999 World Cup which saw the Boks beat the All Blacks in a bronze medal play-off and then again in 2000 at Ellis Park before Nick Mallett was fired, the Boks then lost eight in a row to the All Blacks as first Harry Viljoen and then Rudolf Straeuli failed to rebuild the Boks in the post-Mallett era that had seen the Boks equal the world record for successive Test victories.

Straeuli had in fact blooded the core of players that under Jake White would record back-to-back victories over the All Blacks across 2004 and 2005, and then win again in 2006 in Rustenberg.
That same Bok team would win three in a row against the All Blacks in 2009. That was under coach Pieter de Villiers, but when Heyneke Meyer took over with a whole new squad and staff, the Boks lost six in a row to the All Blacks before a win in 2014.

Meyer ultimately presided over a Bok team that lost just 20-18 to the All Blacks in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup, and then there was a colossal clear-out of players and coaching staff that meant incoming Allister Coetzee was fatally impaired, and those three 50-something reverses to the All Blacks in 2016 and 2017 were the result.

The Boks under Erasmus are now enjoying a resurgence against the Old Foe but the bottom line as far as challenging the All Blacks for a meaningful period of time is that Saru has to wake up and ensure that the Boks have long-term continuity instead of fatally having to reinvent themselves after each World Cup.

Mike Greenaway has the privilege of covering most of the Springboks’ victories over the All Blacks in the professional era. Here are his three favourites.

1998 New Zealand 3 South Africa 13 (Wellington)

This was the last ever Test match at the famous Athletic Park, a rickety old ground that was to make way for the Cake Tin that was nearing completion at the time of this match. The All Blacks wanted to bid a fitting farewell to a historic stadium but Gary Teichmann’s Boks were the party poopers. The unforgettable moment in that match was the match-winning try that saw flyhalf Henry Honiball deliver a brilliant inside pass to incoming blindside wing Pieter Rossouw.

2009 New Zealand 29 South Africa 32 (Hamilton)

The score-line flattered an All Blacks side that scored a late flurry of points after the visitors had smashed them for most of the game. The Boks had already beaten the Kiwis twice in South Africa and this victory secured them the Tri-Nations title. This match was memorable, too, for the three crowd-silencing penalties struck by fullback Francois Steyn from well within his half that locally earned him the nick name of “Jet boots”.

2006 South Africa 21 New Zealand 20 (Rustenburg) -His great mate Martin Myers was at that game

This was one the filthiest Tests between these countries of the modern era. The Boks under Jake White and John Smit were dangling by a thread after five successive losses. One more and there would have been a clear-out ahead of the 2007 Word Cup. But the “gatvol” Boks threw all caution to the wind and scrapped out a win that was secured by a last-minute penalty goal by Andre PretoriusA year later that same Bok team won the World Cup!

By Mike Greenaway

World Rugby awards Rugby World Cup 2023 to France

The World Rugby Council today awarded Rugby World Cup 2023 to France, which was selected following two rounds of voting during its interim meeting in London.

France received 24 votes to South Africa’s 15 in the final round of voting. In the first round, France received 18 votes to South Africa’s 13 and Ireland’s eight.

Following today’s vote, France will be hosting rugby’s showcase men’s event for the second time and hosting the 10th edition of the event 200 years after William Webb Ellis gave birth to the sport.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Congratulations to France on being elected Rugby World Cup 2023 host. They presented a very strong and comprehensive bid, which clearly resonated with the Council today.

“We had three outstanding host candidates, who raised the bar and overwhelmingly demonstrated that they were all capable of hosting an exceptional Rugby World Cup. There was very little to choose between the candidates and this was reflected in the independently-audited evaluation report.

“I would like to pay tribute to Ireland and South Africa for their dedication throughout a rigorous, and transparent process and hope that they will bid again. We now look forward to working in partnership with France to deliver what I am sure will be a very successful Rugby World Cup in 2023.”

About the Rugby World Cup 2023 host selection process

The Rugby World Cup 2023 host selection follows a complete redesign of the bidding process to promote good governance and transparency, while providing prospective host unions and governments with an opportunity to gather all the information necessary to ensure hosting capability prior to moving through the process. This re-modelling has been assisted by The Sports Consultancy, which helped develop the documentation and tools and supported World Rugby throughout the process, including the evaluation and assessment phase.

During the applicant phase, the first phase of the process, interested unions were provided with the criteria for evaluation. Initially, there were four applicant unions, but Federazione Italiana Rugby withdrew its application, leaving Federation Française de Rugby, Irish Rugby Football Union and South African Rugby Union to proceed to the candidate stage, which in itself is a mark of their ability to host. On 1 June, 2017, the three candidate unions submitted their full bid documents, which were evaluated by the World Rugby Technical Review Group. The group submitted its report to the Rugby World Cup Limited Board, which in turn made its recommendation to Council today (31 October) prior to the vote on 15 November.

Voting process for selecting Rugby World Cup 2023 host union

On Wednesday 15 November in London, World Rugby Council decided which candidate union would host Rugby World Cup 2023. The three candidate unions were not be able to vote during the process.

That means, in total there were 39 votes left to be won, split up as follows:
• The four remaining Six Nations unions and three remaining SANZAAR unions had three votes each

• The six regional associations (Oceania Rugby, Sudamerica Rugby, Rugby Americas North, Rugby Europe, Rugby Africa and Asia Rugby) and the Japan Rugby Football Union had two votes each

• The remaining four votes belonged to Georgian Rugby Union, Rugby Canada, USA Rugby and Federatia Romȃnă de Rugby

• The unions/regional associations cast their votes as they saw fit, including splitting their votes or abstaining

• The entire process has been overseen by independent auditors

• As no candidate won a clear majority (20 votes or more) after the first ballot, the candidate bid with the lowest number of votes dropped out and then a second ballot was called between the remaining two.

The Rugby World Cup Limited Board is: Bill Beaumont (Chairman), Agustín Pichot (Vice-Chairman), Gareth Davies (Wales), Mike Hawker (independent), Brett Gosper (World Rugby CEO).

UNION Exhibition

Click to Download PDF of UNION Exhibition Auckland NZ

Stadium lights on last night for 1st time The Green point 2010 stadium

Stadium lights on last night for 1st time The Green point 2010 stadium

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